Comic-Con: Indepth Wall-E Details Revealed

Wall-E

The following is my transcript from Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E panel at Comic Con 2007. More information than ever before was revealed of Pixar’s next Summer release. But don’t listen to me, here is Andrew talking about the project:

There was this one leftover nugget that wasn’t even a full idea. It was just a question. What if mankind had to evacuate earth and someone forgot to turn the last robot off. That little phrase evoked so many possibilities that it stuck with me that even seven years later when I was doing heavy rewrites on Finding Nemo.I would procrastinate by daydreaming about this story about a robot. Because it really combines two things I love – the space movie genre and the giving of life to an inanimate object. I began procrastinating more and more much to the frustration of my Nemo producers. I created the initial story of a rusty 400 year old robot, a little compacting trash robot named WALL-E.

Sometime in the future overpopulation and rampant consumerism literally buries the world in trash. And mankind, the entire population is forced to re-colonize for a mandatory five year cruise out in space on these luxurious star-liners that had the latest and greatest in care and entertainment and automation. Meanwhile those WALL-E units were deployed to help clean up the planet’s surface. And something didn’t go right and nobody ever came back. So for over four centuries one little robot was like the little energizer bunny. He kept going and going and going. Day in and day out, compacting trash for seven hundred years. During this period of time he formed a personality with a curiosity in the artifacts and history of mankind. Wondering what this thing called living is all about. Until one day an unusual event occurs that motivates WALL-E to for the first time, break from his life-long routine and seize an opportunity to go out into space.

And here he comes reconnecting with one of the star-liners, way out on the edge of the galaxy, still in a holding pattern, that has been there for centuries, that carries the evolved generations of all mankind. The lost tribe of humanity. And humanity is in a sorry state. You see, the star-liners were basically futuristic cruise ships with technology so advanced that all of their basic needs were met by service robots that could self repair themselves and work around the clock 24/7. Their long term residency in space have caused their bones to sort of atrophy. So bone loss and instant gratification has caused us to turn into couch potato blobs.

Between the house serving robots, and the human couch potatoes, essentially, Wall-E is the only one still truly living. And what is the ultimate purpose of living? To love.  And WALL-E falls head over heals with a probot named EVE.

Editors Note: Eve is a white floating robot with a black face and blue glowing eyes. Eve’s structure almost looks like a penguin, with two flipper arms which are independent of the body. And her dome shaped head flots an inch above.

Now, Wall-E’s feeling’s aren’t reciprocated because, well, she has no feelings. She’s a robot, cold and clinical. WALL-E is the one who has evolved over time and garnered feelings. So in the end, it’s gonna be WALL-E’s pursuit to win EVE’s heart, and his unique appreciation of life to become mankind’s last hope to rediscover it’s roots. In short, it’s going to take a robots love to help make the world go round.

One thing I knew in the beginning is I didn’t want to have dialogue in the traditional sense. In order to stay true to the integrity of the inanimate object, I really wanted to view most of it’s personality through how it was constructed. And it’s a metal box, a piece of electronics. I’m basically making R2-D2 the movie.

Editors Note: Andrew visited Ben Burt, the father of R2D2 and pitched him the story. Burt agreed to do the sound design for the entire film based on the story. Burt was brought on stage to talk about how he developed the sounds of Wall-E.

Other characters of WALL-E include (note: from now on if it’s not in quotes, it’s me speaking, not the director):

M-O: A side kick character, M-O stands for Microwave Obliterator.  He zooms around on a trackball and cleans up using a drawer that retracts from his chest.

AUTO: Short for Auto Pilot. The ultimate multitasking droid. He slides around on the ceiling maintaining all the functions on the human star-liner. He is almost like a helmsman of a ship.  Burt used old Maritime military sounds to express AUTO’s emotions and activities. He also has a very authoritative robotic sounding voice. He almost looks like one of those magnification lamps you see in a dentists office.

They then showed some unfinished footage from the beginning of the film. It”s a glimpse at the typical day of WALL-E com packing trash and stacking it. Wall-E accidently runs over a little bug but doesn’t hurt him. The bug follows him as he works, and kinda becomes his sidekick. Wall-E finds a bra and puts it on his head. The audience laughed. He then begins to collect human artifacts into a picnic cooler. He finds a sprout like plant which he also puts into cooler.

On his way home he comes across a bright red dot on the ground. He follows it like my cat follows my laser pointer. It’s a race between the laser dot and Wall-E. Then suddenly we realize that the laser is actually part of a space ship’s landing procedure. Sand and rocks go flying everywhere, while a scared WALL-E tries to stay alive amongst the dirt and rocks flying everywhere.

The ship opens and EVE is deployed in an egg like construction. WALL-E hides in his robot shell as the ship programs EVE and the shell opens and… the film burns in the projector.

“I guess it got ruined in the projector, Shucks!” says Stanton. “I guess we’ll have to wait till next Summer to find out what happens.”

Stanton admits that WALL-E was partly inspired by Luxo (the lamp character seen in Pixar’s opening animation), and also by a pair of binoculars that Andrew was playing with during an A’s game.

“The Luxo was always an inspiration because of all the life it gave an inanimate object.”

Actually, the panel began with the Pixar opening logo sequence but Luxo’s bulb burn out and WALL-E rolled in and replaced it. Instead of leaving off screen, he transformed into the R in Pixar’s logo. I’m sure this will be used in the film’s opening titles.

An audience member asked if the live action people element would be anything like what was done in Happy Feet. Stanton set the record straight.

“We’re not doing anything like Happy Feet. There is a live action element involved but that’s the most I can say.”

The footage that was shown was unlike anything that has been ever done by Disney before. I’d call it an anti-Disney movie. But at the same time the robot creatures are all relatable in a cute R2D2 robot type of way. It will be interesting to see if Kids will understand a story which is so involved in a way out there science fiction story-line. But does it really matter? The cute robot will sell the movie on his merits alone.

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